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Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2004 Aug 12;141(3):317-29.

Natural hypometabolism during hibernation and daily torpor in mammals.

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Department of Biology, Philipps University, Karl von Frisch Strasse, D-35032 Marburg, Germany.


Daily torpor and hibernation are the most powerful measures of endotherms to reduce their energy expenditure. During entrance into these torpid states metabolic rate is suppressed to a fraction of euthermic metabolism, paralleled by reductions in ventilation and heart rate. Body temperature gradually decreases towards the level of ambient temperature. In deep torpor body temperature as well as metabolic rate are controlled at a hypothermic and hypometabolic level. Torpid states are terminated by an arousal where metabolic rate spontaneously returns to normal levels again and euthermic body temperature is established by a burst of heat production. In recent years some of the cellular mechanisms which contribute to hypometabolism have been disclosed. Transcription, translation, as well as protein synthesis are largely suppressed. Cell proliferation in highly proliferating epithelia like the intestine is suspended. ATP production from glucose is reduced and lipids serve as the major substrate for remaining energy requirements. All these changes are rapidly reverted to normometabolism during arousal. Hibernation and daily torpor are found in small mammals inhabiting temperate as well as tropical climates. It indicates that this behaviour is not primarily aimed for cold defense, instead points to a general role of hypometabolism, as a measure to cope with a timely limited or seasonal bottleneck of energy supply.

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